Café Wrap-Up: The Golden Rule

Is the “Golden Rule” sufficient when examining all questions of morality?

This question covered at the most recent Socrates Café led us to consider application of The Golden Rule toward the moral questions that we each encounter on a daily basis. Taken from The Bible, the well known Golden Rule is the idea that one should “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Philosophy professor Clancy Martin in his lecture series Moral Decision Making: How to Approach Everyday Ethics said that this concept “appears not just in the New Testament but in slightly different formulations in a variety of ancient traditions.” He cites:

Book Cover Analects of Confucius

The Udanavarga of Buddhist tradition “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful,” and

The Analects of Confucius “Do not do to others what you would not like yourself, then there would be no resentment against you either in the family, or in the state.”

This whole concept seems simple to apply to everyday moral questions, but does applying The Golden Rule to any moral question stand up under further scrutiny?

Well, yes.

And no.

One café participant suggested that The Golden Rule is a form of reciprocity which proposes that if I treat you in a way which maximizes my happiness, then you ought to treat me similarly and by extension your happiness increases. The Wikipedia definition seems to agree. The participant elaborated further saying that it also follows that if I continue to treat you the way I want to be treated, but that you essentially use me to the point at which a reciprocal arrangement no longer exists, then I could choose to withdraw your access to my friendship.

This idea was rebutted with another person’s interpretation of The Golden Rule. Her belief is that it only states that the former treat others in a certain way, but that no reciprocity is implied or expected. Still, with respect to the concept of reciprocity, we pondered another’s suggestion to instead “do to others as they would like done to them.”

The one who proposed this idea further explained (and I’m paraphrasing here) the following. Suppose I am a person who prefers to be alone when I need de-stress. You on the other hand are one who just wants to be hugged or who prefers to enjoy time with friends in order to experience the same result. Using this interpretation I should, when you are stressed, be sure to invite you to my party, or give you a big hug.

However, there is a danger here. This presumes, as still another person pointed out, that I know best what you need for yourself, even more so than you do, and by acting accordingly I remove your autonomy.

Applying The Golden Rule to Everyday Situations

Is it okay to lie?

Apply the rule by asking, “Do I like being lied to?”

Sometimes (if it suits my best interest or helps me to learn), but not if it is used to manipulate me or is in any way hurtful.

What if you catch a co-worker taking home office supplies? Morally speaking, should you be the whistleblower or approach the co-worker about the issue?

If the roles were reversed, would you want to be talked to about this by me or by your boss and maybe lose your job as a result? Applied here, the principle seems to dictate that you should approach the co-worker to tell her, “Here’s what I saw you doing, and it’s wrong.” If after this, the co-worker continues to steal company supplies, she should at least not be surprised if you take the issue to management.

But is this really just being a tattletale or a whistleblower? If everyone steals the office supplies, will the company be able to sustain its business? What if it’s not office supplies, but the co-worker is writing checks to himself drawn from company funds? Do we have degrees to which we choose whether or when to apply The Golden Rule?

What about giving to the poor? Would I appreciate the help if I were down on my luck? If an opportunity to help someone in need presents itself and you apply The Golden Rule, then morally you would be obligated to assist.

While we may not have found the answer to our original question, we certainly came up with more questions and cause for thought about an important idea. This often happens, and that’s okay. That’s what a democracy is about.

At each meetup of the Socrates Café we choose a single question to examine from those submitted by our patrons. You’ll find it fun an engaging. You can register here.

Book Flight- A Dog’s Purpose

Book Flight- A Dog’s Purpose

You gave us a book you’ve read recently. We prove three books based off of a related theme

A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

This is the remarkable story of one endearing dog’s search for his purpose over the course of several lives. More than just another charming dog story, this touches on the universal quest for an answer to life’s most basic question: Why are we here?

Books about man’s best friend

Click book cover to see it in the library’s Catalog

Book Flights – 10% Human

Book Flights – 10% Human

You gave us a book you’ve read recently. We prove three books based off of a related theme

10% Human: How Your Body’s Microbes Hold the Key to Health and Happiness
by Alanna Collen

You are just 10% human. For every one of the cells that make up the vessel that you call your body, there are nine impostor cells hitching a ride. You are not just flesh and blood, muscle and bone, brain and skin, but also bacteria and fungi. Over your lifetime, you will carry the equivalent weight of five African elephants in microbes. You are not an individual but a colony.

Book on the tiny organisms in our body

Voting Information 2020

Pennsylvania’s Department of State offers voters the option to vote early in-person for the November 3, 2020 General Election.

Where are the Drop Boxes for my vote?

I live in Lehigh County and plan to vote in person. Where do I vote?

According to

  • If you are a registered Pennsylvania voter, you can use the new early in-person voting option available under the bipartisan Act 77.
  • You can request, receive, mark and cast your mail-in or absentee ballot all in one visit to your county election office or other designated location.
  • With this option, there is no need for mail at all, and you can cast your vote at your convenience.

You must be a registered voter to submit an application.

To check whether you are already a registered voter in Pennsylvania, use the Find Voter Registration Status tool. You must apply for an absentee or mail-in ballot for each election unless you qualify for and request permanent status to vote by mail-in ballot.

If you plan to vote using an absentee or mail-in ballot, your completed application must be received in the county office by 5:00 PM on Tuesday, October 27, 2020. Postmarks DO NOT count. Once you have received your voting ballot, the deadline for return is 8:00 PM on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

You can request a mail-in or absentee ballot online HERE. Note that you must check the I Am Not A Robot box in order to proceed online with your application for a ballot. Otherwise, you can choose from the links shown to print out a paper application that you will need to mail to your county in order to receive your mail-in ballot.

When you submit your application for a mail-in or absentee ballot, you will be instructed to print your confirmation and/or have a copy of the confirmation emailed to you. If you do not have a printer, you can still choose Print, and select Save to PDF. This way, you can save a copy of your application confirmation on your computer in case you need to refer to it later.

Are there limitations?

If you’re a voter with a valid PA Driver’s License or PennDOT ID number, you may apply for your ballot with an online form.

If you do not have one of these ID numbers, you will need to download a paper application and mail it to your County Board of Elections or visit your local county elections office. We can help you access and print this application at the library if you do not have a printer, or you can submit an online request to have the form mailed to you. (See below*)

Absentee Ballot Application

Mail-in Ballot Application

What’s the difference between an absentee ballot and a mail-in ballot?

Simply put, the absentee ballot is used if or when you either (a) will not be in your municipality on election day so that you would be unable to cast your vote in person, or (b) you have a permanent illness or disability that makes it impossible for you to vote in person. Alternatively, the mail-in ballot allows any eligible voter to vote by mail instead of voting in person if they choose to.

*What if I can’t submit my application online?

If you’re unable to submit an application online, you can submit an online request to have a form mailed to you.

Si no puede enviar una solicitud en línea, puede enviar un pedido en línea para recibir un formulario por correo.

For Military and Overseas VotersWhen applying for an absentee ballot, use the federal form.

When applying for an absentee ballot, use the federal form.